Green banking giant Nedbank on Tuesday announced that it is South Africa’s first corporate entity to achieve carbon neutrality.
This environmental step came at a cost of some R14-million, however, green initiatives also ensured cost savings for the group in the region of R28-million a year, explained CEO Mike Brown.
Nedbank had spent about a R2-million outlay on measuring the group’s carbon footprint and initiating projects within the group to reduce its footprint.
The balance was spent on buying carbon credits to offset the greenhouse gas emissions (about 213 000 t) that the group could not cut itself.
The carbon credits were purchased from the Rukinga project in Kenya, which is Africa’s first large-scale Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation initiative.
The Rukinga project was restoring the natural environment and ecosystem in Kenya’s Kasigau corridor, and brought additional benefits to the community through job creation, access to healthcare and education – 18 new classrooms have been built and sustainable farming practices taught.
Nedbank Capital African treasuries carbon and financial products unit head Kevin Whitfield explained that suitable greenhouse gas reducing projects in Africa were “extremely limited and highly priced”.
However, he added that more interesting and less risky projects were coming on line in Africa and that Nedbank hoped to purchase credits to offset its 2010 carbon footprint from a South African project.
The group’s carbon footprint was measured across its 13 head office and regional buildings and more than 490 branches and included staff travel. Targets for yearly reductions were set and numerous programmes implemented across the 27 000 staff members in South Africa.
In 2009, the bank stated that it saved enough electricity to power 317 South African homes.
The group installed compact fluorescent lamps and fitted intelligent lighting and motion sensors across its facilities. Water is being recycled and reused and it is using biodegradable cleaning products.
Recycled paper is now being used and recycling bins were placed in facilities resulting in some 34 t of waste being recycled.
Staff were also encouraged to cycle to work and to take the stairs, while Nedbank is encouraging teleconferencing and videoconferencing to cutdown on staff travel. The group noted that emissions from flights were down 30% from 2009.
Brown noted that as a bank, Nedbank had a “pretty low direct impact on the environment”, but through leadership could inspire its suppliers, procurement parties and customers to greener action.
“As the national government focuses on using the opportunities offered by the green economy to address some of the environmental and social challenges faced by our country, Nedbank plans to leverage its carbon neutral status to help them drive a green agenda and deliver value for our stakeholders,” said Brown.
A carbon neutral task team was established within Nedbank and worked with the World Wide Fund for Nature in creating a framework to meet the commitment. Ernst & Young did the auditing.
Nedbank was also working on a number of green product offerings, such as bundling the cost of a solar water heater into a home loan, paperless banking and loan facilities for the energy-efficiency retrofit of buildings for example.
Nedbank Capital has also financed a solar powered traffic light in Sandton.
Brown emphasised that carbon neutrality was the latest chapter for Nedbank in its climate change journey and the company would continue to achieve this, as well as work on and promote what it viewed as South Africa’s next huge sustainability challenge – water.